Starting your own business: Estates and trusts

Published: April 6th, 2009

Category: News

Taking time out from her hectic schedule, Carla DeLoach-Bryant (LLM 03) visited the Levin College of Law on April 2 to discuss her experiences starting and developing her own private estate planning firm.

Professor Miller, an estate planning professor at the Levin College of Law, introduced Bryant as “one of the real success stories in the estates and trusts area” and joked that “Carla suffers from something that I do not suffer from, and that is modesty.”

Already, DeLoach-Bryant has accumulated ten years of practice experience at the young age of 33.

In her presentation, she focused on the vast differences between the cultural environment of a large firm and that of a small firm and revealed what she believes are the keys to her success.

Miller pointed out that despite the current economic downturn, DeLoach-Bryant is hiring additional lawyers to help manage the workload of her firm. On how she continues to expand her practice, she said, “I think if you’re providing good services and giving good advice, pending some sort of depression rehash, you’re going to stay busy, and maybe busier than you want to be.”

Part of DeLoach-Bryant’s humility that Professor Miller mentioned is reflected in her attitude toward the reasons for her success as well as her belief that her practice is about building relationships with clients and fellow attorneys.

DeLoach-Bryant credits her success to several factors, including other people and what she describes as “God’s benevolence.”

“I don’t view myself as the reason why [my firm] is a success. I’ve sought to affiliate myself with people much better and much smarter,” she added, stressing that “the success of this practice has not been because of me.”

She also credits her success to “working really hard,” and said that she has spent “a lot of hours—too many hours” and freely admits that “there have been costs to that.” Her tenacity has also been a valuable asset.

“I’m a very tenacious person and I’ll take ‘no’ nineteen times and keep going and hope to eventually get ‘yes.’”

Along with her humility also comes gratitude. DeLoach-Bryant stressed the importance of providing a written thank-you, when appropriate, to clients and to other attorneys who have provided her with referrals. Sometimes, she even includes a Coach keychain, a bottle of wine, a bottle of olive oil, or a nice tie.

Also important to her success, Deloach-Bryant says, is that she does not view work to be beneath her, especially as it pertains to building relationships with her clients. In one case, she found herself personally driving a client’s daughter to and from the airport and to and from meetings with divorce attorneys. In another, she helped the son of a client arrange for his marriage in Greece.

“The more connection I have with their children, the more they trust me with their estate planning,” she said, adding that “before long, they trust your judgment. They trust you as a lawyer.”